He was honored first for swearing, now for smiling

October 22nd, 2014

RStephens200x200Richard Stephens, who was awarded an Ig Nobel Prize for his research about swearing and pain, has just won a writing competition for his work about smiling. The Wellcome Trust reports:

Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize 2014: The winners are…
22 OCT, 2014

The winners of the fourth Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize were announced this evening at a ceremony held at Wellcome Trust HQ in London. With over 600 entries to choose from, picking a single winner in each category was no simple task… Split into two categories – professional scientists (postgraduate and above) and non-professionals (including undergraduates)…

the judges picked Richard Stephens and Kate Széll as this year’s winners. Richard’s piece on smiling – ‘Don’t say cheese, say cheeks’ – earned him the crown (okay, trophy!) in the professional scientists category, while Kate’s article on facial blindness entitled ‘Prosopagnosia – a common problem, commonly overlooked’ was the winner of the non-professional and undergraduate category.

Richard Stephens and two of his students (all of them at Keele University) were awarded the 2010 Ig Nobel peace prize for confirming the widely held belief that swearing relieves pain. (REFERENCE: “Swearing as a Response to Pain,” Richard Stephens, John Atkins, and Andrew Kingston, Neuroreport, vol. 20 , no. 12, 2009, pp. 1056-60.)

Atmospheric things – especially balloons

October 22nd, 2014

Balloon-QuestionBalloons : what do they mean to you? Harmless playthings? Medical devices? Educational tools? Or means for attending to the properties and spaces of air and geographies of atmosphere? For the latter, see the work of professor Derek McCormack, of the School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford, UK, who focusses on balloons as vehicles for conceptual and empirical experiments in the multiple space-times of atmospheric materialities. He presents a new paper in the journal Cultural Geographies, October 2014, vol. 21 no. 4 605-625. It’s entitled : ‘Atmospheric things and circumstantial excursions’

“Stories told of the excursions of things are inflected by the properties of those things and by their capacities to move and be moved in different ways. Such stories can also be infused with a sense of the processes and relations from and within which these things – as apparently discrete presences – emerge. Moving in the spacetimes between these ontological and narrative imperatives, this paper tells stories of the excursions of atmospheric things as shaped forms that proposition us as discrete presences while also drawing attention to the clouds of affective and material relations in which they are generatively immersed. These episodic stories turn around the promise of the balloon as an only ever partially dirigible narrative device: a device through which to foreground what, following Michel Serres, we might call the ‘circumstantial’ qualities of atmospheric things.”

Noting as well that :

“The promise of the concept of atmospheric thing is that it points to the existence of a kind of worldly entity that makes its presence felt as something discrete but only insofar as it foregrounds the durational mattering of diffuse atmospheric fields in which it is a participant. These atmospheric things move between two trajectories in the material­isms that circulate in social, spatial and political theory. One is a growing sense of the importance of atmospheres as diffuse yet palpable spacetimes that require particular modes of attunement and genres of address. The other is the affirmation of the object as an ontological starting point whose essence is always withdrawn from the world,”

Further reading(s) :

Before embarking on any practical balloon-based explorations of atmospherics, may we recommend a document cited in the paper, namely a Pollution Policy and Position Statement from the Marine Conservation Society, UK, ‘The intentional outdoor release of balloons and Chinese/sky lanterns’ And, a Sept. 2007 story from The Daily Mail (also cited).

Also see : improbable dirigibilties in : 300,000 to 450,000 Cows Per Zeppelin, approximately.


A book no mathematician can resist?

October 21st, 2014

What mathematician could resist buying a copy of this book, after reading the bookseller’s description:

Logics of Worlds is the long-awaited sequel to Alain Badiou’s much-heralded masterpiece, Being and Event. Tackling the questions that had been left open by Being and Event, and answering many of his critics in the process, Badiou supplements his pioneering treatment of multiple being with a daring and complex theory of the worlds in which truths and subjects make their mark a?? what he calls a materialist dialectic.

Even many of those many critics will enjoy criticizing both the being and the event in and of this book, once they are made aware that Badiou has supplemented his pioneering treatment of multiple being with a daring and complex theory of the worlds in which truths and subjects make their mark a?? what he calls a materialist dialectic.

N’est pas?

BONUS: They will also, perhaps, enjoy the book (the status of which, says the bookseller, is “currently unavailable”):

The world of logic. Toolkit for primary school teacher. 3rd ed / Mir logiki Metodicheskoe posobie dlya uchitelya nachalnoy shkoly – 3-e izd. – (“Biblioteka uchitelya nachalnoy shkoly “),

Trouser (pants) creases – a metrological examination

October 20th, 2014

If you’re one those people who wonders about accurate trouser-crease measurement in woolen trousers (pants), you should perhaps turn to the Textile Research Journal, March 1966 36: pp. 264-272, where R.C. Landwehr (of the Western Regional Research Lab, Albany, California)
presented an apparatus and procedures to reliably measure wool creases. The ratio of maximum crease height to crease width at half height level was proposed as an objective measure of crease sharpness. See: ‘The Measurement of Wool Trouser Creases


“We have presented evidence to show that the subjective evaluation of creases is directly related to their objective measurements of, maximum height and sharpness, that sharpness is proportional to height, that height varies more in percent than sharpness and that height, therefore, should generally be a sensitive index of overall creases quality.“

An Ig Nobel quiz

October 19th, 2014

A look back to Scossa L’Eredità (the Italian TV quiz program)’s question about the Ig Nobel Prizes:

Scossa L’Eredità 15 ottobre 2013 Laura: Premi Ignobel

BONUS: A look back at that, and several other Iggy TV quizzes